Kei’lan Allen sat on the bed at his Tuscaloosa home Friday night, playing games on his iPad as he often did.
The Westlawn Middle School eighth grader was wearing his beloved red Beats, with an open dictionary next to him even though he didn’t have school that day and wouldn’t again until Tuesday.
That’s just the kind of kid he was.
“He was a very smart kid,’’ said his cousin, 26-year-old Corey Prewitt. “He probably had over 30 books in his room.”
Shortly before 6:30 p.m., a hail of gunfire aimed at Kei’lan’s Washington Square home erupted from the outside. Roughly 13 bullets entered Kei’lan’s bedroom, and even more in other parts of the house.
“I don’t even think he heard the gunshots,’’ Prewitt said, because of the headphones. “I’m pretty sure it was an AR-pistol that hit his head.”
Kei’lan’s mother, Christina Barnes, called her son’s name repeatedly after the shots rang out. He was her first-born, and her only son.
“He didn’t answer after that, so she walked in the room, and he was slumped over,’’ Prewitt said. “She just grabbed him and was telling him, ‘I love you. I love you.’ An innocent child with a bullet hole in his head. “
Tuscaloosa police and the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit responded to Kei’lan’s home on the city’s west side, off Foster’s Ferry Road.
When they arrived on the scene, they found the 13-year-old boy dead inside the home.
The shots were fired from outside the home in an apparent drive-by. Police marked multiple shell casings in the street.
“It’s a senseless murder,’’ an emotional Chief Brent Blankley said Friday night. “We see it all the time where adults are shot and it’s terrible, but when it’s a kid, it takes it to another level.”
On Saturday, Tuscaloosa police posted this on Facebook: “Last night, our Chief of Police had to tell a mother and a father that their little boy was gone. Their son had been sitting in his room, playing on his iPad, when gunshots fired at the house came through the window and ended his life.
There were so many shell casings in the road, officers had to pull business cards from their wallets to fold and use as temporary evidence markers. The parents and family of a 13-year-old boy had to stand across the street and watch paramedics drive the ambulance away after realizing there was nothing they could do.”
The family is reeling from Kei’lan’s death.
“It just happened out of nowhere,’’ Prewitt said. “It’s a tough time and I can’t say we’re handling it well.”
Kei’lan leaves behind his parents, three little sisters and close-knit group of extended family members.
“He was a phenomenal kid. A straight-A student. Very artistic. He could really draw,’’ Prewitt said.
“He was very mild mannered – ‘yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am,’’’ he said. “He kept to himself. He wasn’t too much of a talker, he was much of a doer. He just got a lot done.”
While Kei’lan’s little sisters often played outside, Kei’lan was content to spend his time drawing, reading and playing on his electronics.
“He was tech savvy,’’ his cousin said. “This was a very bright and smart young man, and they took his future away.”
Prewitt said Kei’lan was the last person expected to ever become a victim of gun violence.
“He was at the safest place he could be – at home,’’ Prewitt said. “He wasn’t a street kid. He’s not cut from that cloth. My auntie did a phenomenal job raising him.”
Police as of Saturday afternoon had not announced any arrests, not identified a possible motive.
“I think this was just something meant for someone else,’’ his cousin said. “And it just happened.”
It also took an emotional toll on investigators who responded to the crime scene.
“We’re all dads and moms out here. When you see that, and you see the senseless tragedy of that, it hits you different,’’ the police chief said Friday night. “We’re going to do everything we can to make these arrests.”
Prewitt said he would have done anything for his little cousin. “I’m a barber and I cut his hair every two weeks,’’ he said. “I had just told his mom I would cut it Sunday or Monday so he would be fresh for the week.”
The family is still trying to absorb the shock of Kei’lan’s death.
“I want people to remember how kind he was,’’ Prewitt said. “He should be remembered as smart and kind and patient. He didn’t bother anybody.”
“He was an artist, and friendly to all his friends,’’ he said. “All that got taken away from him.”
Prewitt said he often told Kei’lan’s mother that he should take advanced courses once he got to high school. “You just snatched away a future valedictorian from his family and that’s not something that’s easy to deal with,’’ he said.
The family, he said, will keep Kei’lan’s name and memory alive.
“I’m pretty sure now they *the shooter or shooters) know they made a huge mistake,’’ Prewitt said. “The world is going to see we’re not going to stop until justice is served.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 205-349-2121, 205-464-8690 or report anonymously at 205-752-STOP (7867).